NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Nearly two dozen people have been arrested for allegedly buying and distributing untaxed cigarettes, evading over $2 million in city and state taxes, Brooklyn District Attorney Joe Hynes announced Wednesday.
Sources tell 1010 WINS the arrests were the result of a sting operation run in cooperation with the cigarette industry.
1010 WINS’ Juliet Papa reports
During Operation Buttlegger, undercover officers sold over 550 cases of untaxed cartons of cigarettes, with a retail value of $4.29 million.
The bootleg smokes were apparently sold at vastly undervalued prices to local bodegas in Brooklyn.
The defendants face a slew of charges including possession of untaxed cigarettes, trademark counterfeiting, tax violations and criminal possession of forged instruments.
Two other defendants are also charged with robbery and grand larceny for allegedly carjacking a shipment of black market cigarettes from an informant.
Hynes said over a half a billion dollars in tax revenue is lost each year in the sale of untaxed cigarettes.
“The loss of tax revenue from the sale and purchase of untaxed cigarettes has reached a level which is nothing short of scandalous,” he said.